"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." (from the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America).
With due deference to more learned opinion, it does seem most unlikely the 1780s era framers of the Constitution had in mind all that has since been derived from the First Amendment. It is possible all they wanted was to avoid a state church. When they used the word "religion" it is unlikely anything but "Christian" was in their minds, and ideally "Protestant" religion. The case has been made the omission was deliberate. Whatever the intent, what they got came to be called religious freedom.
If you grew up in an American public school prior to about 1965, you lived in a different world with a worldview no longer politically possible to promulgate in state supported education. Particularly for one coming into grade school shortly after yet another "righteous" war, knowing we were part of a "Christian nation" was a vital ingredient in our education.
As children we were taught the primary motivation for coming to America was freedom of religion. People, we were told, had no other reason for establishing America than to be free to worship in whatever manner they wished. Hence we learned of Jamestown, the Pilgrims, etc.
The fact that these first immigrants wouldn't have found transportation without a certain underlying greed of merchandise was not mentioned before high school.
For about two centuries we called ourselves a "Christian" nation. Being Catholic was almost as good; being Jewish was barely tolerated because we needed their talents -- and money; anything else was "foreign."
The world changed. If you did not live through the 1960s, you missed a lot of changing.
An important turning point in changing us from a "Christian nation" to whatever we have now was the legal case brought by Madelyn Murray O'Hare. As described by one (admittedly bias) website:
"In June of 1963, the Supreme Court upheld the argument of the atheist Madelyn Murray O'Hare and promulgated an edict with ramifications so widespread it insured that God would be evicted from public society across the entire spectrum of the American governmental system. From that day to this, not only has prayer been outlawed, God's very name has been declared anathema to the United States Constitution, and forbidden to be mentioned in any federal, state, county, city or municipal context." (goodnewspirit.com).
It is not at all clear, trying to see the world as a self-proclaimed Christian, that the changes in our world have been all that bad for the true Church.
I propose a three-part hypothesis, to be challenged or ignored by those who would actually be "Christian":
I propose that NOT being a "Christian nation" is a good thing for followers of Christ, those always called to be strangers in a strange land. If we do not live a life that declares "this way and no other," do we have right to ask the law to make us right?
I propose that our culture will diminish in direct proportion to rejection of "Christian bias" as a foundation to government (and has already so diminished). The challenge to the Christian, to the Church of every generation, is to stand witness against the winds of political correctness.
I propose that America is, at very least, no longer "under God." Perhaps America never truly was what we were told we were. Unfortunately the written record indicates a price to pay by nations, which come out from under the covering of the "Christian God."
Certainly God has blessed and prospered us because Christians inhabit the land. If we are not "under God," can we continue to ask Him to bless us?
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.